• Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Things don't go so well on the upper end of Yankee Boy Basin, above Ouray, Colorado. Trip almost ended here...
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Wyoming had plenty of variety left for me. After a trek through wet, boggy trail, the ground dried up through this stretch of Forest Road 807. 
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Then more snow as I climbed to the Colorado border on Forest Service Road 551 in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Dry land again in Colorado, over forested hill and through treed gullies on Forest Road 551.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Country Road 129 as the sun goes down on the way to Steamboat Springs, Hahn's Peak in the distance.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Some people are real serious about their barns.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • The only bear I've seen on the trip so far, in Fairplay, CO. And I'm fine with that.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Departing Fairplay, CO on the way to Montrose, CO. Colorado must have a million awards for the quality of its vistas.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Here's another, looking back into the valley before cresting the hill to Breckrenridge. These kinds of views make breakfast taste so much better.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Overlooking Breckenridge on the way to Boreas Pass. Not long after pulling out, I crept up to the bumper of two older women creeping up the snowy trail in a Ford Focus with Missouri plates, and followed them to the 11,482-foot summit.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Just over Boreas Pass, headed a long way downhill to Como, CO.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Back down to thicker air on Country Road 53 between ranges, near Agate Mountain.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Ute Trail in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests & Cimarron Comanche National Grasslands, with the Sawatch Range in Gunnison National Park in the distance. I think the cows and mining engineers in Colorado might have the best views.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • The McDonald's in Montrose, CO. Although this looks like a pirated version of McDo, or the Eye of Mordor, it's actually based on motifs used in early McDonald's stores, which used one arch.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • I got to Colorado too late to do Poughkeepsie Gulch, so I settled for Yankee Boy Basin above Ouray. Camp Bird Road begins the steep, beautiful journey to the top.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Break right onto County Road 26 and crawl under a cliff shelf next to a vertical drop.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • On Yankee Boy Basin Road, cut by deep gullies in a few places, pocked with puddles and boulders elsewhere.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • It got high enough and cold enough for snow to stick, and I decided I wanted to get to the peak in the distance, or at least reach the pass, wherever that was.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • I can't say I wasn't warned. I was ready. I thought I was ready.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • The base of the switchback where it all went wrong. I'd struggled a bit to reach this point, but was still committed to the pass. Bogged down one hundred feet up, I decided I only wanted to go further than the other set of wheel tracks.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • The trail didn't want to let me beyond this point. So I decided to lock up and put the left side tires on the rocks for traction. Those rocks form the left lip of the trail, and they're soft, not hard. I pushed off, getting further than the other wheel tracks. I backed up to do it again. The rocks, on soft dirt underneath, gave way. I dug in and got stuck. Then I tried to back up...
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • And couldn't get back on the trail. The rear left slipped over the lip, pulling the rest of the Jeep with it. Any time I tried to move, the Jeep slid further down the face. Doesn't look so steep here, but for a long moment I suspected my 800 pounds of gear would end this trip by shifting, sending me head over heels sideways down the hill. By reversing - and sliding further down every time I did - I was able to saw my way down the face.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • This was the mess I made half-falling down to the lower switchback.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Looking up from the lower switchback. I started a long way up the hill to make it back to here.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • The view on the way back down looks that much better when one is alive to enjoy it.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Rubicon Alaska Cannonball
  • Back on Camp Bird Road. Time to get to Silverton, CO.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
Our man Jonathon Ramsey drove a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon on a 14-week, 14,000-mile journey across North America. Check out his first, second, third, and fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh installments.

Note:

I've received some comments from trail users upset about my mishap on Yankee Boy Basin, where I slid off the trail and left some tracks on the land. This was unintentional, and I certainly didn't want to disturb the area. It was a mistake.

For clarification, I'd like to note that the trail was open at the time this occurred, in mid-October 2018, and other vehicles — even hikers — were on the Yankee Boy Basin road while I was up there. A local offroad outfitter with an understanding of the terrain pointed me to this trail. Once I found myself in the predicament, there was no other way out. Colorado is a beautiful state and I'm sorry I did some damage there.


FARMINGTON, New Mexico – Looking for a Rubicon-testing trail in Colorado, I headed to Poughkeepsie Gulch in Ouray, on the Western Slope.

Even though Wyoming's my favorite state, Colorado wins for nonstop heart-stopping views in the lower 48. The drive from Fairplay wandered north through Breckenridge, then above the ski town to cross the snow-covered Boreas Pass. In the valleys on the other side, the trail cut through evergreens in the Rocky Mountain National Forest, cattle grazing lands, lonesome Western ranges, a 360-degree horizon of distant peaks. I also found frequent rock-filled puddles, so thanks again Spencer and MudBudz for coaching on how not to kill a vehicle in a mere eight inches of water.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

I shacked up in Montrose, waking up early to hit Poughkeepsie Gulch. The woman in Ouray's information center looked at me like I'd appeared from the 19th century as she informed me, "Poughkeepsie's closed! Everything's closed! Done until next year!" She told me there was a little trail above town, so I shuffled to the Jeep to see what I could see. The little trail lead to Box Canyon Falls, but once on Camp Bird Road, I skipped the falls and kept climbing the mountainside, to Yankee Boy Basin.

A thread of wet, rocky dirt ascended the hillside between Gilpin Peak and Teakettle Mountain, headed for Blue Lake Pass. Snow piled the higher I went. I passed a sign warning that only those with high-clearance 4WD should continue. I scoffed. I hit a switchback a half mile beyond the sign, the snow getting deeper. Then another switchback, after which the road got steeper and the snow got deeper again. I got out and walked. Someone had tried to come through recently, getting perhaps 50 yards up. I decided that if I couldn't make it to Blue Lake Pass, I was going to get further than the people who'd come before me. My first stupid move. I could barely move without sliding down the hill. If I'd stopped to listen after conjuring that brainstorm, I could have heard the trail whisper, "You're SO dumb."

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

I pointed the Wrangler up the hill and went for it. I didn't get far. I backed up, gunned it again. I got a little further. I backed all the way to the corner and gunned it harder. I made it to just about where the previous vehicle's tracks ended. Fifteen feet of gravel marked the edge of the trail where I'd stopped. I decided to put the Wrangler's left-side wheels on the gravel, lock both axles, and heave-ho. This time I got further than the other tracks, by a couple of feet, then the Wrangler bogged. I'd won. But I knew I'd get no further, so I put the Wrangler in reverse to back down the hill.

My throttle-heavy attempt had dug a trench in the gravel down to the dirt. The rear left wheel took the path of least resistance, over the lip of the trail and down the slope. I put the Wrangler in Drive and got nothing but wheelspin. I backed up a foot. The Jeep slid two feet further over the trail edge. I crept backward into the snow on the slope, hoping I could turn or accelerate myself into a course correction. That didn't work. The Wrangler slid so far over that I had to go with the momentum or else I'd make the situation worse. The whole rig slid down the slope, stopping about halfway between the upper and lower switchbacks, stuck up against a berm of mud and snow.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Well. This wasn't ideal. I'd read on a Wrangler forum that you could tilt a stock Jeep up to 40 degrees before rolling over. That was before the Rubicon got put on 33s, and before I'd put 800 pounds of lightly secured gear in the back of mine, though. I sat supposedly 10 degrees away from that anecdotal bright line, and didn't feel like I had a 25 percent margin. I waited in the driver's seat for a few minutes, looking at the mountains, thinking. It would have been a gorgeous place to eat it. Not once did I think about how I'd explain a rollover to Jeep — and that was assuming I lived. I was worried about how I'd explain it to Nena Barlowe, who I had assured on numerous occasions that I had nothing to prove and wouldn't do anything stupid. Except climb 12,000 feet up a mountain, alone, in 30-degree weather, on a 30-degree slope, nary a winch point anywhere, and start issuing dares to myself.

I still couldn't go forward. Every time I tried, since I was facing a steeper portion of slope, the weightier back end slid downhill ahead of the front. Because the slope got shallower behind me, where the switchbacks met, I could reverse – really slowly – and manage the back-end slide. I pulled away from the snow berm and backed up with just enough throttle to get the rear pointed a few degrees up the hill. Then I crept forward with just enough throttle to get the front steered into the slide, and turned a few degrees further down the slope to get the nose ahead of the rear. I repeated that two-step until I'd sawed my way into pointing downhill.

I made it to the switchback below. Alive. And slightly less dumb. But only slightly.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Information

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

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